July 13, 2013
Two new Scout-like groups
It is a busy week for alternatives to the Boy Scouts of America. On Tuesday, OnMyHonor.net announced that they sponsored a meeting to organize "a new scouting-like organization for young men". In today's San Francisco Chronicle, I read about DIY.org a maker-inspired group, Online DIY startup lets kids make good (sorry about the paywall). Odd that both groups actually use their URL as the group name. I'm waiting for that to go out of fashion.
The OnMyHonor.net-sponsored group is a direct reaction to the recent BSA membership policy change. It is planned to be an explicitly Christian Scouting group, "founded on principles and values that reflect a Christian worldview." They have promised that the policy "read, in part: 'the proper context for sexual relations is only between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage.'" The membership policy "will focus on sexual purity rather than sexual orientation", so it appears that homosexual youth will be allowed membership, though they obviously will be considered impure.
DIY.org is described in the SF Chronicle article this way:
The San Francisco startup is trying to modernize the Boy Scout and Girl Scout model with dozens of awards, some conventional (Sailor, Woodworker) and other not so much (Open Sourcerer, Sys Admin).
DIY.org operates primarily through the website and phone app, with family participation. There are on-line groups and ad hoc meetups, but no local organized units.
So what do I think?
The OnMyHonor.net group takes US Scouting in a direction common in other countries, with faith-specific Scouting groups. France has many local and national Scouting organizations, including national ones described as: interreligious, Catholic, Traditionalist Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and Muslim. There is also a regional group, Ecuyers Saint-Michel, organized around fencing. Obviously, faith-specific Scouting can work, but it seems like an uphill hike to get it widely established in the US. Our tradition of separation of church and state extends to other, non-government groups. The new group will likely be successful among conservative Christians, but I wouldn't expect it to get a lot bigger than the Royal Rangers.
Also, note that their Christian worldview is not my Christian worldview, nor the worldview of my family or my denomination, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA. I was already tired of conservatives assuming that their family values were my family values. Now they are assuming that their Christianity is my Christianity, and they are still wrong.
As for DIY.org, well that story was in the business section. Despite the mention of Scouting, anything without patrols isn't even close to being Scouting. I'm sure it will be fun, but it mostly points multiple big holes in the Scouting program in the US: no presence in the mobile-connected world, split organizations for boys and girls, and disconnection with the technical world. The BSA already blew it big-time by not getting Venturing involved in FIRST Robotics. The teamwork in robotics competition is tailor-made for Scouting skills.
Neither group will have an impact on the BSA or the GSUSA. The fate of those groups is in their own hands. They need pay attention to what is working for the other groups and how to incorporate that into their own programs.
April 21, 2013
BSA Proposes "It Gets Worse" Policy
The Boy Scouts of America have a resolution on membership policy that will be voted on in May. This opens Scouting to gay youth, but leaves the adult rules unchanged. The adult rules do not allow "individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA." In other words, stay in the closet if you want to be a Scout leader.
So what happens when a gay Scout turns 18? Before then, they were moral enough to be a Scout, but now, an instant later, they are not. Before, they were accepted, but now, they are out. Bizarrely, they can be in and out at the same time, because they can be a youth Venturer until age 21 while forbidden to be an over-18 adult leader in Cub or Boy Scouts.
Bullying and suicide are a critical problem for our LGBT youth. The "It gets better" campaign has been a rallying point for encouraging youth to believe that there will be more acceptance as they grow up. You will be more accepted--it gets better. But this BSA proposal comes down solidly on the other side. It is OK to be gay as long as you are young, but once you turn 18, you might as well sell that uniform on eBay. We don't want you. Though if you can squeeze back into that closet, we'll take you.
Instead of "it gets better", the BSA would say "it gets worse". Gay youth are OK, but adults are out.
This cannot be justified on youth protection grounds. The BSA's YP advisory committee is quoted in the executive summary saying, “The nearly universal opinion among sexual abuse authorities is that same-sex sexual interest or same-sex sexual experience, either in adults or youth, is NOT a risk factor for sexually abusing children.” The all-caps "NOT" is in the original.
One thing is very clear, the BSA is not bowing to donors. With this proposal, the BSA continues to exclude gays and continues to be unacceptable to most large donors.
Outside of the moral issues, this policy could be a disaster for our council. The continuing discrimination against gay adults offends nearly all parents in our area and is unacceptable to sponsoring organizations.
I know of one Palo Alto troop that is on the verge of losing their charter organization because of the current policy. That decision is on hold waiting for a change in BSA policy. Our district office is in space leased from the city. Will they renew that lease? Tough call for the city, really.
Our local newspaper covered the district fireside chat on membership. Every single person at that meeting was in favor of opening membership to gays. The newspaper tried hard to find someone opposed (they even contacted me), but couldn't. You can read the article "Local Boy Scouts want change in sexual-orientation policy".
In February, a well-respected poll found that 78% of age 18-39 Californians were in favor of gay marriage. Not just gay rights, but gay marriage. These are the people who would be Scout parents, but they won't be, because they won't put their sons in an organization which is solidly in conflict with their family values.
Earlier, there was a leak about a proposed policy that opened membership at the national level, but allowed charter organizations to choose their membership. After some thought, I decided that was a good approach. For a very long time, the BSA has allowed "closed units", which only accept members from the charter organization. This might be a Catholic church, or maybe a home for developmentally-disabled adults registered as youth. Though I disagree with discrimination against gays, that approach would have allowed each organization to follow their own definition of "morally straight" while allowing all Scouts at Philmont or a Jamboree.
This proposal? It is logically inconsistent, solves almost nothing, and adds one more burden to the LGBT youth of our country.
March 23, 2013
A Few Favorite Backcountry Cookbooks
Backcountry cookbooks tend to stick to a single cooking approach, ranging from "just add boiling water" to cooking from scratch. You may need to sample a few cookbooks until you find one that matches your style.
Freezer Bag Cooking by Sarah Kirkconnell is a guide to making your own just-add-water backcountry meals. Most ingredients are available at your supermarket. Compared to pre-packaged freeze-dried meals, these have twice the food and cost half as much. Read carefully, though, some of the recipes serve two people and some serve only one.
NOLS Cookery is the best book for working from bulk food. This is a different style than planning each meal, but effective for larger and more frequent expeditions. NOLS Cookery uses a fixed set of staples with a few extras for a wide variety of meals which are combined, prepped, and cooked on the trail. No at-home prep, just flat-out cooking on the trail. Be prepared to buy a Banks Fry-Bake, NOLS loves that pan. If you know how to use it, it is both a frying pan and a dutch oven.
NOLS Cookery also has great info on building wood fires, planning the right amount of calories for a trip, and bear protocol. Even if you don't cook the NOLS way, you can get some valuable information from this book.
The Back-Country Kitchen by Teresa Marrone mixes supermarket-available and home-dehydrated ingredients for rehydration or minimal cooking on the trail. The recipes vary in complexity from dressing up instant grits with cheese and egg to Cajun Venison Tenderloin. They also range from backpacking to cabin cooking.
The twenty page chapter on dehydrating food at home is all you'll ever need and probably worth the price of the book. Want to know how to dry eggplant or kiwi? It is covered concisely, with equivalents between dehydrated and fresh so you can adapt recipes. With home-dried ingredients, you are ready for these tasty recipes or the simpler ones in Freezer Bag Cooking, your choice.
Of course, the recipes are also worth the price. Look for yummies like planked fish held down with bacon or cabin cooking with a can of cherries to season the venison. I made a the Lentil-Bulgur Chili with fresh ingredients at home and the family declared it a keeper. People love the same recipe in the backcountry with dehydrated veg.
Overall, this is my favorite trail cookbook.
The entrees in Lipsmackin' Backpackin' by Tim and Christine Connors are yet another style, where you combine and cook ingredients at home, then dehydrate the results. I have the book, but I don't think I've ever cooked anything from it.
If you do not want to dehydrate at home, I recommend getting some samplers of dehydrated vegetables from Harmony House. That will get you through most of the trail recipes in Back-Country Kitchen. Most recipes only need a tablespoon or a quarter cup, so a one cup bag will last a while. The sampler makes a nice Christmas present, too.
I have a pretty good collection of camping cookbooks, including those my dad bought in the 60's. You want Bradford Angier's opinion on moose muzzle? I can find it. He says it is even tastier than bear.
I recommend getting a few books and trying a few styles. You'll have to go camping to really try them, but that isn't a problem, right?
March 09, 2013
Need that extra zing for your backpacking meal? Shelf-stable bacon bits! It is a three ounce package, so you'll need to use it fairly quickly after you open it. But that might not be a problem. And it is at Safeway, so you can get it for this weekend. I might do that, since I'm teaching BSA Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills this weekend.
See Sarah Kirkconnell's blog for the details.